It may be a McWorld out there, but not when it comes to American football. Take the Super Bowl. A huge event in the U.S., watched by more than half the country last year, it barely makes a ripple outside of North America.
That may start to change as American football gets adopted in places like India. In November of this year, the Elite Football League of India (EFLI) will kick off with games between teams like the Bangalore Warhawks and Hyderabad Skykings. Players will all be Indian, many of them poached from local rugby sides, to great controversy.
India joins Canada as countries with significant American football leagues. Japan has a corporate league, and a surprising tradition of college football.
NFL Europe folded in 2007 after fifteen uninspiring seasons, but American football still has hopes for the home of everybody else’s football. Two days ago, Indianapolis Colts president Jim Irsay claimed future Super Bowls might take place at London’s flagship Wembley Stadium, which for the past five years has hosted a well attended regular-season NFL game. The St. Louis Rams recently agreed to participate in the next three English match-ups. Rams owner Stan Kroenke also controls the popular London-based soccer club Arsenal, and rumors are swirling that the restless Kroenke, who wants to move the Rams to Los Angeles, will take them to London permanently if a move to Los Angeles falls through.
Though the NFL is nearly 97 percent American, there is an international cast of players in the game itself. New York Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka is the grandson of Benedict Kiwanuka, Uganda’s first prime minister until he was murdered by Idi Amin. Kiwanuka’s teammate, defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora was born in the United Kingdom to Nigerian parents, and two other players in the game were born to Nigerian immigrants to the U.S. — Giants safety Prince Amukamara and New England Patriots safety James Ihedigbo. Also playing is the Jamaican-born son of a half-Chinese father, Patrick Chung. Two Europeans play for the Patriots: offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer is from Germany, and punter Zoltan Mesko is from Romania.
Their friends and family may watch, but the Super Bowl could break viewing records yet again this year and still look less than stellar compared to the World Cup — 700 million people tuned in to watch Spain beat Holland in the 2010 World Cup Final.
If the game takes off in India, those numbers could change. American football icon Mike Ditka and former star quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Ron Jaworski have invested in the league.
Super Bowl XLVI kicks off at 6:30 PM EST. Overseas readers, will you be watching?